Monday, April 19, 2010

MODELS - Its not the models, its how you handle them.

Well it looks like my post on models got people talking. Sadly I was away from home yesterday and could not answer. Rather than play catch up with comments, I will just make a new post.

First, Saturday nights post was the product of Tullamore Dew and a few conversations that happened on the phone and on facebook. It was a topic I have been meaning to address, I was just hoping to do so more eloquently. I will attempt to clarify my meaning now.

 I actually have no problem with models themselves as long as they are treated properly and used to expand, not limit, ones thinking. More on this below.

I am actually surprised that no one brought up the fact that I use models heavily in Strategic Sorcery: specifically the model of Three Levels. Also, I have to admit that I also more or less buy into the Buddhist models of Anatman - lack of essential self, and the Madyamika idea of reality itself being Emptiness-Luminosity that gives rise to appearances that we cling to as real. In other words, the clinging to self and appearance as inherently existing is a delusion of the mind, at least as far as ultimate truth goes. We still however have to keep relative truth in mind - which is what we are mostly dealing with in matters of practical magic. Anyway, the point being - I myself make use of models
WHAT MY OBJECTIONS REALLY ARE: My objections are actually very well summed up by Gordon in his excellent blog that is actually giving me new respect for Chaos Magic: Rune Soup. Still I will try to make my own comments.

It is not the formation of models that is the problem, it is the clinging to those models as firm belief and the misinterpretation of what others are doing that causes the problem. In short, most scientists constantly test their models to find out if they hold up. When they don't , scientists re-think the models. Magicians tend to develop a model and actively believe it rather than test it. When challenges come up: such as people that do energy magic when you believe a "spirit model" (or vice versa) rather than open up the model, what I have seen is people doing everything in their power to shove whatever they encounter into their belief.

You see this a lot of neo-kabbalah and the 777ing of just about everything. For example you get things like: "Legba is a Mercurial being because our model calls for everything to fall into a neat category. Never mind the traditional associations with the Sun, if he is the messenger, than we treat him as Mercury!". Hymaneus Beta was even insisting that the 10 Bhumis of Mahayana Buddhism must line up with the Tree. This than led to all sorts of misinterpretation of those Bhumis
Frater RO in a comment to my last post made an excellent observation: " Personally, I use the spirit model because it fits my belief system. I'm a conjure mage, and the psychological or energy models aren't appropriate for most of my work. They don't work in context. Pick the right map for the area. "

Ok. Here we have our models being based on belief. The key between belief and idea is pretty key because a belief will drive you to interpret data in a way that supports your belief rather than letting the data support the conclusion. Still, I agree with him that his chosen focus and specialization relies on spirits and his model is good for what he himself does.

He illustrates the problem in the next paragraph:
"Where I live as a Hermetic magician, it's appropriate to say 'The spirits are the source of the ability to perform tricks like energy work.' It's appropriate because using the Hermetic Magic I already know, the way to get the kinds of results you might get from Prana training is by consulting the spirits, getting initiated, and receiving training in using the forces."

There are two problems here.

The first is that you are taking your spirit model and applying to every type of magic that everyone does. If the Prana workers are claiming that they are working with the winds that are naturally resident in the body, and you are basically thinking that they are wrong because your work focuses on spirits, that is pretty much the definition of letting your model limit your thinking.

The second issue is that you do not know that you can get the same results as the prana training provides because you haven't done it! You are making a huge assumption based on the idea of your model being universal and your system being a full representation of everything that is available out there. To my mind this is just hubris. To quote some scientist or other whose name escaped me "there is not only more out there than we know, there is more out there than we can know".

One of the reasons that models are less valuable in magic than they are in science is that we are dealing with things that:
A: Cannot be measured as objectively as the phenomena that science measures
B: Often, belief or our own mental activity plays a larger role in the art.

In terms of encountering differing traditions in magic and religion it is really vital to approach each from their own base, and along their own path, if we expect to reach the fruit that they are supposed to yield. If we think that Neoplatonic/hermetic models explain everything, and then decide to investigate a different tradition of magic it is a grievous mistake to start off thinking that it is going to follow a pattern of seven emanations from a supreme source with each level overseen by some kind of Archon or Spirit who mirco-manages everything. You will automatically mis-understand.


I examples of this when I met some Theosophists in Nepal. Despite the fact Tibetans have been teaching widely and opening the authentic tradition to the world for over 50 years, and produced 1000 times more information on the subject than Blavatski did, these folks insisted on viewing everything through the theosophical lens. They even were warry of Druka Kagyu teachers because they were dreaded "Red Hats", despite the fact that modern Tibetans hardly ever have this kind of rivalry, and never had the kind of conflict that Blavatski imagined. I have also seen it with hard core Crowleyites interfacing with Taoism and Yoga. They hold Crowleys models up as more authentic and true to the tradition than what the actual yogins and priests teach!

A more practical example is when we were planning a conjuration of Vassago at Thelesis sometime in the late 90's. I was going to be the conjurer and a sister was going to be seer. Someone that must have recently read DuQuette asked: "Who's Vassago will appear? Yours or hers?".

I noted that he was letting his model limit his working to the extent that he was not even open to the possibility of Vassago being a separate entity. Knowing I was a Buddhist he noted that I myself accept the inherent lack of separation, so what could be my objection to seeing Vassago this way. The answer of course is that Vassago is only as interconnected and inseparable as we were as human beings, and that we were operating within the realm of relative truth.

Sometimes the clinging to models as truth is so radical it completely shuts you off from anything that does not fit. A few years ago I made the aqauinatnce of someone who 's model does not have any room for spirituality, transcendence, or transpersonal mystical states. If he works with the gods at all, it is only as they manifest in the very lower astral - usually beings that are just claiming that name. He insists that all religion is basically the blind worship of these lower beings, and that mysticism and such really doesnt exist. His attitude towards any of these mystical or transpersonal states is: prove it. The problem of course is that if you are clinging to a model that refuses to engage in the work that reveals those states, there is no way to prove them. Its like proving that Russia exists to someone who refuses to get on a plane to travel there.

So now that I accused others of hubris, I am going to go ahead and engage in some myself. As I already noted, In TSS and other Strategic Sorcery Materials I have talked about the three levels as a model for use in practical magic. One of the things that I keep insisting though throughout that chapter is not to cling to heavily to the model. It is good as far as it is useful, but should never limit ones thinking. In the Strategic Sorcery course for instance we start talking more about a seven fold model - which is also something that is just a tool, not a dogma.

The three levels arose out of observing how different traditions tapped into different sources for magic. By observing a lot of different types of magic, and gaining mastery in a couple, and competency in a few more, I was able to see how different paths hit different points in their magic. For example I was able to see how Rootworkers worked primarily with material physica (which we really haven't talked about much yet - how does that work into your models?) and prayer. Modern ceremonialists tend to access Energetic Levels and Prayer. Modern Psionic practitioners tend to only work with the energetic level.

While discussing the Tibetans odd blend of very complex energy work, advanced spirit work, meditation, as well as focus on materia that amounts to very precise hedge magic (something that thows a lot of people off), I realized that what I loved about it so much is that it hit all the levels I was seeing. I than experimented with other types of magic, making them hit all three levels. I came to the conclusion based on the results that this was a good model

So the two differences are:
1. The model is not based on my belief. It is based on my observations.
2. The model can and should be tested constantly to see if it can be improved or expanded.
3. The model should not be used as a tool to interpret traditions when those traditions are themselves saying something different. At least not until a lot of experimentation and learning the base path and fruit of that tradition is performed.

Basically. I am not anti-theory or anti-model. I am anti-clinging and see people misusing their models in ways that limit rather than expand understanding and performance.


Kenaz Filan said...

Jason: this is an absolutely FANTASTIC post. I agree completely with your observation about the way models can limit our understanding as much as they can assist it. (My personal favorite was the New Ager who assured me that in Vodou one could only do work "for the highest and greatest good." She was utterly incapable of grasping that the Ascension model didn't map onto the Vodou/Afro-Caribbean Religions model at, well, any point... )

I'm probably going to chime in on this subject at some point. I think the Monotheistic model (all Gods are One God) is taken as a default by many people in the community, as is the "Collective Unconscious" model(all Gods are aspects of my mind). One of the great strengths of Chaos Magic, IMO, is that it encouraged practitioners to question their models and to examine how those models shaped their perception. (One of the great weaknesses was that it assumed there was no underlying truths and that one model was just as good as another depending on circumstances... but that's a whole 'nother kettle of fish).

Jow said...

Thankyou! The model should conform to observations, not observations to the model.

Ekro said...

One of the reasons that models are less valuable in magic than they are in science is that we are dealing with things that:
A: Cannot be measured as objectively as the phenomena that science measures."

Cannot? Why so? I have seen several effects that can be objectively measured as science measures. I acknowledge that many are not always quantifiable, but they are measurable. Maybe I've lived a charmed magical life, but I have used magic very predictably. There are spells/techniques that I have come to rely on in the same way many rely on television and pain killers.

I'm no expert as far as objective measuring goes, but I am assuming you mean that two or more measurers should arrive at the same result within some acceptable tolerance when measuring the same phenomenon. If that is the criteria of objective measuring you are implying, then I see no reason why objective measurements cannot be used in the field of magic.

"B: Often, belief or our own mental activity plays a larger role in the art."

Why does belief play such a role?

Both of these statements seem like you are assuming a model of magic where belief and subjectivity play a large role. Do they? If so, why?

I've also noticed that you seem to assume that some aspect of spirituality is important in magic. Is that for the purpose of results, or simply based on a model? I personally do not see spirituality/deity/divine/sacred or other such things as having anything to do with magic. I suppose I side with the "prove it" person in a lot of ways. And by prove it I mean, prove how it is any more effective than not having these things to produce a given result? This is a rhetorical request. I am not filled with so much hubris as to think you'll stop everything to do just that.

Jason Miller, said...

Ekro, in both comments you ignored important parts of my statements.

If you know about my work, I stress measurable results of magic and real work success.

I did not say that they could not be measured. I said that they could not be measured as objectively as most scientific phenomena.

However, to pretend that what we do is as measurable as as the things that most science is concerned with measuring is just silly. If one is arguing whether the result is achieved by the energy of the practitioner, a spirit that is doing the work, a psychological telepathic effect, or the movement of information there is no machine to do that with.

We can indeed do experiments of one kind or another, but these will often (though not always) be less conclusive and objective than a standard physics experiment.

In the second statement that you quoted from me I said "Often, belief or our own mental activity plays a larger role in the art"

Note the word "often" is not synonymous with the word "always". You went on to imply that I am using a model predicated on belief. If you knew anything about me you would know that I actually preach quite the opposite. My style of magic does not require any more belief to work than a car does.

It is however just a simple statement of fact that most of the magical systems in the world are tied to one belief system or other. To discount the role of that in our exploration of their system is to ignore their own base in favor of our own pre-coinceived model right out of the gate.

More importantly though, I said "belief and our own mental activity". I do not know you well enough to tell if your magic requires mental activity of some kind, but I suspect that it does.

By definition mental activity is fairly subjective.

Brother Christopher said...

Thank you and very thought provoking. One thing I am wondering about (and I apologize if it is not clear) is how about a practice where several models could all function effectively? For example, Tarot, which has been picked up by people using possibly every type of Model there is, it seems. Although, I would say that depending upon the model you are working with, the answers you get might vary (alot) but I think each can be successful in thier own way, and be helpful (again in thier own way). Would it be possible or even suggestible to embrace all the models available for Tarot? Or would that be like trying to serve two masters (so to speak)?

Rufus Opus said...

The first is that you are taking your spirit model and applying to every type of magic that everyone does.

No, that's not even close to what I said, or think. I am only applying it to my Work as a Hermetic magician. That's why I started the sentence with "Where I live as a Hermetic Magician." I don't know why you keep thinking I'm talking for all of magic, but it's annoying as shit. How many ways to say "I'm talking about how I do magic that looks from the outside like the results are similar" are there?

If the Prana workers are claiming that they are working with the winds that are naturally resident in the body, and you are basically thinking that they are wrong because your work focuses on spirits, that is pretty much the definition of letting your model limit your thinking.

I never said they were wrong. Demonstrate to me how any statements I have made would indicate that the people learning Prana are wrong, please, because something is going on where you read what I write, and then say I said something bass ackwards.

The second issue is that you do not know that you can get the same results as the prana training provides because you haven't done it!

Really? A prana trained healer comes into an occult book store, lays hands on someone, they're healed. I come in, lay hands on someone, they're healed. Different results? Maybe within the sphere of the magician and the winds of the prana healer, but in the healed person?


Jason Miller, said...


When I get in front of a computer later this afternoon I will post an apology for misrepresenting you. One of the factors that led me to my conclusion was the phone conversation we had. Since that conversation was just between you and I, I should have been more careful in separating the two, AND perhaps I misunderstood you there.

Anyway, I will certainly retract the comments at least as far as they are applicable to you. But if it is not a model that you think applies everywhere, is it really a model of magic or is it just how you do things?

As to the second idea of whether you get the same results or not, there is more to it than just a healing. What is the manner that the healing takes place? What is the longevity of the resukt? What are the side effects? In prana and in spirit work the use for healing is more or less a side issue benefit attached to a greater work - how does that work impactthe healing?

I can get accupuncture, herbal cures, or three different types of drugs to treat an ailment. Each one of the five is going to actually have a different result. They will all "heal" but you cant say that one mimics the results of the others.

Rufus Opus said...

Jay, never mind, Mercury's Retrograde again. Communications are challenged. It's a better time for contemplation than communication.

Ekro said...

This is a horribly late reply, but I was unfortunately busy. I'll attempt to keep it brief.

I wasn't implying that you said you couldn't measure things. I was stating that you can measure magical phenomenon as objectively as any other phenomenon. You wrote "Cannot". I was voicing that I felt one could, and I don't think it's a silly thing to believe. If we agree, then it was merely a misunderstanding.

The why does belief play a major role question wasn't meant to be completely rhetorical. I think it can play a large role for very specific reasons. I was wondering if your views were similar.

I think the implication that followed that question was fair based on you post alone. If your actual model doesn't contain such a thing, I don't feel I can be faulted for thinking it.

And, in case it's not obvious, I don't know much of you beyond the few posts that I have read. You have a style of writing that begs comment. It's a good style for a blog.

Jason Miller, said...


I think the issue is the words "as objectively as". I just do not see how anyone can measure magical phenomena as objectively as physical phenomena. Please give me an example and prove me wrong. This is one I would love to be wrong on.

ChandraNova said...

@Bro Christopher, we each LIVE within different models: just look at elections - each side and their millions of voters believes they really ARE doing the Right Thing, yet viewpoints based on their models of reality and possible outcomes, prior causes etc, could hardly be further apart!

You can expand that to the fact that a woman, an ethnic minority, or any number of other people will have a different model and a different experience of the EXACT same situations than another kind of person could have: in short, the miracle isn't that we have different models - but that any group of us shares a model at all?